Beijing, Nov 6 (SocialNews.XYZ) The exciting 2023 Chinese Super League (CSL) concluded on Saturday after an intense battle spanning just under seven months. The top three finishers were Shanghai Port, Shandong Taishan, and Zhejiang FC, while Dalian Pro and Shenzhen FC faced relegation
The season was characterized by fierce competition for both the title and survival, although there was room for improvement in terms of overall quality, Xinhua reports.
TWISTS AND TURNS
With the strongest squad, Shanghai Port kicked off the season radiating a distinct aura of strength. At their peak, Shanghai enjoyed a 17-point lead over Shandong. However, as the competition neared its climax, there was only a five-point gap between these two teams. Despite the tumultuous journey, Shanghai Port eventually prevailed and secured their second CSL title.
The relegation battle was nothing short of a drama, with Shenzhen meeting an early exit, while the second relegation spot remained uncertain until the final moments of the last round. Dalian suffered a 3-2 defeat to Shanghai Port in the last 20 minutes, sealing their fate outside the CSL. Meanwhile, newly-promoted Nantong Zhiyun and Qingdao Hainiu secured their places in the top tier for another season.
Despite the hopes of fans and league organizers, the rise of fresh talent was less evident than anticipated. The league remained dominated by established stars, with 31-year-old Wu Lei emerging as the top domestic goalscorer with 18 goals. Another notable mention in the top 10 scorers list was 35-year-old veteran Tan Long of Changchun Yatai with 10 goals.
A REVIVAL OF ENTHUSIASM
The CSL fully reinstated the home and away match system for the first time since the pandemic, injecting renewed enthusiasm and energy into the league.
The season witnessed an average of around 20,000 fans per match, with traditional powerhouses like Shandong Taishan and Shanghai Shenhua enjoying consistently high attendance figures. Impressively, newly-promoted Nantong attracted up to 12,000 despite their provincial location in the county-level city of Rugao.
Beijing Guoan's return to a renovated Workers Stadium ignited a surge in fan attendance, with the clash against Shanghai Shenhua drawing a record-breaking 52,500 spectators. The new stadium hosted eight of the top ten highest-attended matches this season.
Chengdu Rongcheng's home ground at the Phoenix Mountain Stadium became another fan favorite, with full-house crowds and an electric atmosphere. For the people of Chengdu, the return to top-tier professional football has rekindled the city's passion for the sport.
"We have waited for this moment for far too long, I've been watching football since I was a teenager," said Mr. Li, a 45-year-old fan who was moved to tears at the club's first home game. "Over the years, Chengdu football has seen its ups and downs. Now, I can finally bring my child to watch a game live, fulfilling a dream from my youth."
Since 2020, many CSL clubs have grappled with financial problems, most notably the disbandment of Jiangsu F.C. just three months after winning the 2020 league title.
In the meantime, rumors of unpaid wages and teams contemplating withdrawal persist, causing concerns. The defending champions, Wuhan Three Towns, found themselves in a precarious situation towards the end of the season when their investors withdrew funding.
Nevertheless, CSL clubs are making efforts to build a sustainable financial model. Revenues from tickets and the sale of merchandise have seen a positive trend over the past season, which is viewed as an indicator of healthy operation.
There is a crucial need for the CSL and its players to take this as an opportunity to redouble their professionalism and dedication, making the CSL a cornerstone for the development of Chinese football.